The Great Mountain View Strawberry Patch Raid

by Michael R Dougherty

Ripe, Red Strawberries

Ripe, Red Strawberries

If the guy started watering his garden, I was about to get soaked.

And since I was now laying face down in the dirt row, as the water started to rise, I would find myself fighting for air.

I had two choices. Stay where I was and try not to panic, or suddenly spring to my feet, jump over the picket fence and run as fast as I could, back down the alley.

Summer time in Anchorage brings with it a lot of good things. Beautiful flowers, swimming at Goose Lake and strawberry gardens.

Growing up in Anchorage, my sister Anna, brother Tom and I used to take summer walks through our Mountain View neighborhood. And from time to time, we would pass by a backyard garden. Later in the summer, those gardens would be producing yummy looking, ripe, red strawberries. And from time-to-time we would notice a ripe strawberry or two that had made their way outside the garden and on the other side of the fence.

Me, my sister and my brother had a rule. No matter how delicious the strawberries in the gardens looked, we would not pick them. After all, they belonged to the owner of the garden. However, as for those occasional strawberries that grew outside the garden and on the road side of the fence... they were fair game.

One fine summer day I was walking by myself through a Mountain View dirt road alley way, when I spotted a few ripe strawberries that had grown though a backyard fence. I quickly bent down to pick one, then stood back up and popped it into my mouth. It was juicy and delicious, so I squatted down to pick two more that were outside the fence.

But when I had finished picking and eating the only other strawberries that were on my side of the fence, I noticed a few more that were in the garden, but "really close" to the fence... so I picked and ate them as well.

Now once I had cheated at my own game, by picking and eating strawberries that were growing in the garden side of the fence, I started thinking about hopping over the fence and helping myself by filling my pockets and my hands with garden fresh strawberries.

Yes, my greed got the best of me.

I leaped over the picket fence and once on the other side, I discovered that next to the strawberries was a row of tall, Sweet Pea plants. It was the perfect cover. I could gorge myself on strawberries and sweet peas without being seen.

There I was, eating fresh sweet peas with a dessert of yummy ripe strawberries. Life was good.

Then suddenly, my happy fool's paradise came to a screeching halt.

I heard the back door of the house open and someone had just come out to tend their garden. A short glance told me that it was the man of the house. I quickly dove face first into the dirt row between the peas and the strawberries. I squished my 11 year old frame as flat into the dirt as I could, so I wouldn't be seen and I tried not to breath too hard so as not to give myself away.

As I lay there in the dirt, shivering in fear, I was instantly sorry that I had shattered my own rule by not only eating strawberries that were in the garden, but by jumping over the fence and raiding the garden. If I got caught, the garden owner and my parents would probably never stop yelling at me.

My mind raced.

What was going to happen? Was the garden owner going to start watering the garden? If he did, since I was face down in a dirt row, I would end up soaking wet and gasping for air as the row filled with water. And if the garden owner was going to pick peas or strawberries, he was going to be startled when he saw me laying there face down in the dirt.

How did I get myself into this mess?

My 11 year old imagination started going over all my options.

I suddenly sprang to my feet, turned, jumped over the fence and started running down the alley like my life depended on it. I didn't look back, I just kept running. And all because of strawberries.

These many years later, I chuckle when my memory takes me back to my "Great Mountain View Strawberry Patch Raid" and how my greed had nearly gotten me into lots of trouble.

I never cheated again. If the strawberry was actually and really outside the garden and on the road side of the fence, then it was fair game... otherwise, I just had to keep walking.

But you know something? Those strawberries on the garden side of the fence... the ones I wasn't supposed to eat. They tasted really, really good.

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